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Photo illustration: Kevin C. Cox, Michael Reaves, Mike Ehrmann, Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

The Masters is back just five months after its previous iteration, this time with limited fans.

By the numbers: The field comprises 88 golfers, including six first-timers and 18 past winners.

Here are the five favorites, via DraftKings (pictured above):

  • Dustin Johnson (+950)
  • Bryson DeChambeau (+1050)
  • Justin Thomas (+1050)
  • Jordan Spieth (+1200)
  • Jon Rahm (+1200)

Storylines:

  • Johnson set a Masters record (-20) last year. With a win this weekend, he'd become just the fourth repeat champion (Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods).
  • Spieth is coming off his first win in nearly four years and has one of the best Masters track records of anyone in the field. Gotta love him.
  • Rory McIlroy hasn't won a major since 2014, but a Masters win would make him the sixth golfer with a career Grand Slam (Nicklaus, Woods, Gary Player, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen).
  • Brooks Koepka is less than a month removed from surgery to repair a dislocated kneecap. Most believed that would require at least a six-month recovery, but he tees off this afternoon.

November's fall foliage and cool, damp weather gave Augusta a brand-new feel. But now that spring has bloomed, the course is back to looking like itself.

Why it matters: Hidden in that beauty is a daunting reality for golfers: After a uniquely dry month, Augusta is expected to play tougher than it has in over a decade.

  • Johnson's record 20-under par in November was aided by slow greens, a byproduct of October seeing more than double its average rainfall.
  • But last month, nearby Atlanta saw 30% less rain than average, meaning the whole course should be lightning fast.

The state of play: All that rain in the fall neutralized Augusta's best defense: its firm, undulating greens. But now they're back โ€” and perhaps deadlier than ever.

  • "You can't hit that shot in April," Paul Casey said of an approach he hit in November right at the flag stick. "That shot in April would have one-hopped over into the patrons."
  • "This week's going to be a huge premium on accuracy, on landing your golf ball on your numbers and being precise with your iron play," said McIlroy.
  • "If it stays dry, it'll be as difficult as the course has played in a long, long time, and that's what I think we need to have," added 61-year-old Fred Couples.

๐Ÿ“š Go deeper: This Masters is about a champion who is missing and what is ever-so-slowly returning (ESPN)

Go deeper

35 mins ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.

Joann Muller, author ofย What's Next
3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles โ€” threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.